Monday, December 13, 2004

Half the World to Speak English

From our friends in England:

English learning is set to rocket with half the world's population speaking the language by 2015, new research revealed today.

Chinese, Arabic and Spanish are all popular and likely to be key languages in the future....

German is also apparently being used more as a foreign language, particularly in parts of Asia.

French as an international language could be a major casualty of this wave of "linguistic globalisation"

This recalls a British article I read a few years ago titled "Waste your life, learn to speak a foreign language":
Ordering everyone to learn another language is as pointless as ordering everyone to dig holes and fill them up. The reward for our ancestors persuading the rest of the world to speak English is that there is no need for us to learn what the
rest of the world speaks. All the time we spend learning another language, we should spend instead learning something useful - like economics, business studies, politics, law or computer science. If everyone in the country were forced to study economics as remorselessly as they are forced to learn French, then Britain would be in a far better state...

Now I do believe there is value in learning a foreign language. My high school German helped me make it through Austrian and German grocery stores fairly unscathed. On our return from Prague, I was the only student in the train car to understand that we had to get off the train barely outside of Innsbruck and take a bus for the remainder of the trip. There are even many benefits to non-travelers, but that is another topic. The question today is one of priorities - both for Britain and the U.S.: for an English-speaker, the importance of being multi-lingual is entirely different than it is for speakers of less common languages.

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